Shanghai is among the 10 municipalities and provinces that will take part in a pilot program designed to better manage organ donations and make sure patients most in need of a transplant receive one.
The pilot will test a new national post-death organ donation system comprising administration, decisions on organ recipients, enhanced after-surgery visits and subsidies for needy donors.
The list of pilot participants in the new China Organ Donation System was announced at a conference held in Shanghai by the Red Cross Society of China and the Ministry of Health. The two-day session ended yesterday.
The system, run by the national and provincial Red Cross, will follow international practices for open, fair and impartial organ management and should help reduce the black market for body parts that exists in the face of a severe organ shortage, officials said.
"Previously, the hospitals decided on organ recipients, which could result in under-the-table practices," Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu said.
China performs the second-highest number of organ transplants in the world, following the United States. Hospitals had conducted 86,800 kidney and 14,643 liver transplants by the end of last year, along with 717 heart, 165 lung, 17 small intestine and 209 pancreas-kidney transplants.
The need is much larger. There are about 1.5 million Chinese patients waiting for organ transplants every year, but the short supply limits transplant surgeries to only around 10,000, according to official estimates.
Under the new system, all hospitals must report their patients and demands for organs to the provincial Red Cross, which will choose the most suitable recipient when an organ is available.
Dr Fan Jia, a liver transplant expert and vice president of Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital, was among those praising the new system.
"A national system can better regulate the source and use of organs," he said.
China has no laws allowing organs to be harvested in a brain-dead patient; doctors must wait for the heart to stop beating.
The Ministry of Health is now considering standards for brain death, which could open up a greater source for donor organs.
"Key organs like the liver must be taken five minutes after the heart stops, or they are useless," Fan said. "The new system means we can get information from a wider range of hospitals about possible donors."
In addition, the network will also provide compensation for post-death organ donations when surviving family members are facing financial difficulty.
The subsidies should help eliminate black-market organ sales, officials said.
(Shanghai Daily August 27, 2009)